One thing we learned from COVID lockdowns that we have continued to retain is to upskill ourselves. Learning a new language is on trend regarding upskilling. Learning a new language and becoming proficient in it takes work. Experts say it can take anywhere from 480 hours to 10,000 hours to master a new language depending on the language and the learner’s ability and effort. Not everyone has that kind of time to spend learning something from the basics. But, some strategies can be applied to make language learning easy. This article will be based on my experiences. I have been learning Spanish for the past year. I used most of the strategies mentioned below to help me improve my language proficiency. If you are also new to language learning, read through these strategies, find out which one works for you, and give it a try.
How To Learn A New Language Easily?
✅ Children’s Books
When starting from the beginner level, it is best to stick with the basics, like children’s books. These books are easy to follow as they are written in such a way as to help children to learn to read and write a language. Reading these books will allow us to learn essential vocabulary and understand simple sentence structure. Most of these books have pictures or art, which adds context to the story, making it easier to follow and understand. Children’s books give us an initial introduction to the language we want to learn and help improve our reading and comprehension skills. These books aid in making the transition to more advanced reading levels much simpler. Bonus point, they are entertaining and fun to read! Here are some great suggestions:
✅ Bilingual Books
Bilingual books are books written in two languages – the language you have mastered and the language you want to learn. Reading this book will help you understand the story’s gist from context. It helps improve our reading fluency and broaden our understanding of vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar rules. Most of these books will have a glossary introducing new words, helping the readers to learn the meaning of these words and expand their vocabulary. In this method, you can read a story in one language and try to understand its gist. Then you can get to the part containing the translation written in the language you’re familiar with and see if you have followed the story almost correctly, without a dictionary. Reading these books helps you compare both languages and identify their different grammatical rules, structure, and similarities. Once you get a beginner’s level of reading proficiency, it is time to move on to the next level and new methods.
✅ Short Stories
Short stories are a great way to improve your reading skills. As the name mentions, they are short and concise. It is easy to follow the stories from start to end without feeling like a chore. Many short stories are written for language learners to improve their skills, available in many languages. Olly Richards is a famous language learning expert who has written several books to help people learn a language quickly, from beginner to advanced. He has devised a six-step reading process that readers should follow to maximize their knowledge from reading short stories. He mentions that while reading short stories, we should read from beginning to end and multiple times until we get an idea of the storyline. This helps us to start reading effectively and get a better grasp of the written format of the language. It is also essential to remember not to rely on the dictionary too heavily as it takes away from the reading. Take your time and graduate with more advanced reading methods after you have mastered the short stories.
✅ Comic Books and Mangas
Reading comic books and mangas is another way to develop your language reading proficiency. These books are a combination of pictures and words and are handy when trying to read in a new language. Comic books and mangas have pictures and fewer words than other books. This makes it easier to follow the visual clues provided by the artwork and attributes the words to the actions. With the pictures as reference, we can follow the story even if we don’t understand every single word of what is written. It is important to read and follow the gist of the book to help broaden our understanding of the language. Reading comic books is also an enjoyable method to improve our reading fluency.
✅ Audiobooks and Podcasts
Audiobooks – though not a visual format – are also essential to language learning. When learning a language, reading, and writing comprehension are not the only important parts; listening comprehension also plays an equally important role. Listening to audiobooks (or other audio-based sources such as podcasts) will help familiarize the language to us. It teaches us the correct pronunciation of the words, the accents, and the commonly used phrases and sentences native speakers use. Listening to the audio also improves our speaking fluency and helps us to speak confidently in that language. We can develop our conversational skills and maximize our ability to retain the language. Listen to level-appropriate audiobooks (or podcasts) across diverse topics to expand your vocabulary. Audible, Storytel, and Scribd have numerous language-learning audiobooks that can be used for the same. Apps like Duolingo have partnered with Spotify and released podcasts, available in a few foreign languages, with various topics to choose from. They also have transcripts for these podcasts that you can read and listen to simultaneously, improving your reading and listening fluency. You can get the Audible free trial here! 🎧 (+ Up to 2 Free Premium Audiobooks!)
✅ Read and Annotate
While reading books in a different language, we encounter many new words, unfamiliar grammatical rules, and weird sentence structures. It is vital that we write them down or make a note of them for reference. If you love annotating, this should be one of your favorite strategies. You can write down the references in the book itself and add colorful tabs to differentiate between the topics. If you do not like marking a book permanently, you can use a pencil or have a dedicated notebook to jot down every new word or phrase you come across for your reference.
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✅ Read Translated Version of Favorite Books
As we keep improving our reading skills, we must try more advanced methods to increase our knowledge. Reading the translated version of our favorite books is the next step. Since we have a general idea of the book, it will be easier to follow through with the translated version. We can also keep both books side by side, note the new words, and mark the similarities and differences between the two languages (this can be replicated with audiobooks or even movies). This method is slightly time-consuming, but still an exciting way to boost our reading proficiency. Also, who wouldn’t want to reread their favorite book?
✅ Read Poetry
There is a reason why we are taught poetry in our language classes at school. In poems, we find out how the native speakers blend the language using colloquialisms and vernacular-tinged vocabulary. It gives us a glimpse into the culture, tradition, and way of life of the people whose language we are learning. Most languages have their forms of poems, be it the Tamil Kavithai or the Urdu Shayari. By reading poetry, we understand how native speakers mold languages according to their convenience. Poems are also generally shorter than books, making it easier to read them. Reading and understanding poetry is essential if you are interested in reaching native-level proficiency.
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✅ Read Fanfictions
Fanfictions are not an oft-recommended medium for literature; they are heavily stereotyped against. But the reading world is evolving, and fanfictions are finding its place there. So it only comes to chance that fanfictions can be successfully utilized to learn languages. There are lots of fanfiction websites available on the internet, one of the most popular being Archive of Our Own (commonly known to users as AO3). There are over a million stories on this website alone, across 40,000 fandoms. Numerous fanfictions have been written in many languages. Many popular fanfictions have also been translated into various languages. Even if there are no translations available, you can use google translate to translate the page into your language of choice (Note: this is only sometimes a reliable mode of translation). You can easily find out the original work and its translations by filtering using the tags present in every story. Reading fanfictions may not be the most orthodox solution out there, but it is a delightful one, especially if you are a person who loves to read fanfiction. Reading the language in a fandom you love will help you be more invested in the process and not be considered a chore.
✅ Read Your Field of Interest
Some of us may need help to continue to decipher a foreign language with no end in sight, as it is an enormous task. Another method we can follow is reading books, blogs, articles, and anything pertaining to our hobbies or field of interest. This method helps retain our interest in the work and increase our vocabulary with respect to that field. Most people will have a particular goal in mind when they set out to learn a language. They might want to work as an IT professional, designer, engineer, or in fields like business, finance, economy, etc. This strategy will help us develop a vocabulary related to that field and familiarize the industry jargon.
✅ Follow Pop Culture Using Reading Mediums
The more we read, the more attuned we get to the nuances of the language, and the more we can increase our reading level. We can start moving up the ladder by keeping up with pop culture and reading other mediums such as newspapers, blogs, magazines, social media pages, etc. This will help us to find out the current events that are taking place in the country and also help update our terminology. We can find the words in that language for recent events such as coronavirus, social distancing, recession, inflation, etc. Armed with the correct terminology, we can update our vocabulary regularly on the go, and when it comes to speaking the language with native speakers, we won’t find ourselves floundering.
✅ Read Books By Popular Authors
It is better to broaden our horizons when we have reached a more advanced level. Reading books by famous authors of that language is the next gradual step. Using this method, we learn more about the culture, traditions, historical events, context-specific language, etc. As I am learning Spanish, I have books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and Miguel de Cervantes in the original language. Learning a language is more than just learning how to speak. It encompasses so much more than that; everything from the way of life, culture, heritage, traditions, food, etc. Once you have reached this level, you are almost on track to converse confidently with native speakers.
These are some ways in which we can use reading books or other adjacent mediums to suit our needs when it comes to becoming proficient in the languages we are learning. Most of us do not consider reading essential to improving language proficiency, but it is very much so. The strategies mentioned in this article will be helpful to navigate the learning process in a fun and more level-appropriate way so as not to overwhelm ourselves. Hopefully, some of these methods, if not all, will work out for you!
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